A probe by NASA engineers and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) into alleged jammed accelerators and "unintended acceleration" of US-market Toyota and Lexus vehicles, has confirmed that electronics failure was not to blame for the incidents.
"There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas," US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
The report concluded that driver error was the most likely cause. Ronald Medford, NHTSA's Deputy Administrator said, "What most likely happened was pedal misapplication. The driver stepped on the gas instead of the brake, or in addition to the brake."
The report to the US Government confirmed earlier findings by the NHTSA that in 60 percent of cases studied - 35 out of 58 crashes - drivers failed to apply the brakes, only partially applied them or no data was recorded.
While Toyota is not out of the woods yet - there are still civil lawsuits pending - the result is a victory for the world's largest carmaker and vindication of its position that there was no electronic failure responsible for the reported incidents.
Since the first incidents were reported, Toyota has recalled nearly 16 million vehicles across its global markets to address mechanical issues including sticking pedals or pedals trapped by floor mats improperly secured. It has also paid nearly US$50 million in penalties relating to the recalls.
- Tim O'Brien